* Dec imports up 24 pct vs previous record set in Nov
* Demand surge amid Beijing drive to replace coal with gas (Adds import, export details throughout)
BEIJING, Jan 23 (Reuters) - China’s imports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) hit a monthly record of 5.03 million tonnes in December, customs data showed, as purchases spiked to cover a surge in demand under Beijing’s push to replace coal with gas for households and factories.
December shipments came in 24 percent ahead of November’s previous record of 4.056 million tonnes, and were up 35 percent from a year earlier, according to China’s General Administration of Customs.
Full-year imports jumped 46 percent compared with 2016 to a record 38.13 million tonnes, according to the customs data, overtaking South Korea as the world’s second-largest buyer for the fuel after Japan.
Beijing’s drive to heat millions of homes and power thousands of factories in northern China with gas has caused a spike in demand, leading companies to pull in cargoes from suppliers as diverse as Nigeria, Angola and Norway.
Meanwhile the data showed aviation fuel exports rose 7.9 percent to a record 1.69 million tonnes from December 2016 - when the previous record of 1.57 million tonnes was set - and 17 percent from 1.45 million tonnes in November.
Full-year exports were up 0.3 pct at 13.13 million tonnes.
China’s December gasoline exports were up 29 percent at 1.23 million tonnes, compared with 1.042 million in November. The total for 2017 was up 8.5 percent from the previous year at 10.51 million tonnes.
Diesel exports rose 12 percent in December from the same month a year earlier to 1.99 million tonnes, just shy of November’s record of 2.026 million. 2017 exports were up also 12 percent at 17.19 million tonnes.
China’s total exports of refined fuel touched an all-time monthly high of 6.17 million tonnes in December, spurred by generous government quotas granted to state oil firms to ship the surplus fuel.
Reporting by Josephine Mason; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell